Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Moving to Blogger

I know this is a little bit of switch, but I am moving this blog back to Blogger. You can find it here: http://hollywoodhillvineyards.blogspot.com/ I will leave content up for about six months and then turn off this blog early next year. Thanks for following me here and join me at my old/new blog!


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Lost Cause, 2011?

OK, it’s the end of August and my grapes show no sign of changing color yet. If this wasn’t so bad it would be funny! Just about all AVAs up and down the west coast are experiencing some lateness from just a couple of days to almost a month. I’ve heard reports that Napa Valley is running 3 weeks late. Some parts of the Willamette Valley are running at least three weeks late and veraison just started within the last week or two which is not good news if we get early and heavy rain showers. Here in the Puget Sound we are running about 3 weeks late.

If you look at the graph to the left you’ll see a graph I put together every year. What you are seeing is the departure from the average high and lows for the day. I take the average temperature for the day and compare it to historical averages and just tally up the difference and keep a running total. The top line is average and is represented by Zero. As you can see right off the bat on April 1st we went negative and never recovered. It was a steep decline in averages until about August 20th when there was a slight upswing, but I have to say it’s way too late to make up the difference.

What does all this mean? At least in WA state we have a choice and in Eastern WA things are running late by three weeks or so, but I think it could be similar to last year and things weren’t too bad last year except for that early freeze. We are definitely pulling out of the La Nina trend now and should be going into a warmer cycle next year. For Western WA state, there might be a significant decline in harvest this year except for the very earliest ripening grapes.

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Cold… brrr…


OK, I hope this doesn’t come off as too winey but come on already Mother Nature! While the rest of the country is roasting we are stuck in a permanent grey spring day here. Temperatures barely getting out of the 50’s and 60s. Plenty of drizzel and an occasionaly small wind storm!!!

It has been the coldest spring/early summer in recorded history in the Seattle area. We are so far below the average growing degree averages for western Washington that I don’t know that we’ll ripen anything this year and that combined with the extra rain and my vines are growing like weeds and the weeds are growing like weeds. It’s a jungle out there! It’s a bit better in Eastern WA, but it’s still one of the coolest years in recent history. Oregon is facing the same dillema as Western Washington, 3+ weeks behind normal temperatures.

There has been a lot of gnashing of teeth that this may be the new normal for us. I think history is against this. We have 100 years of weather data for Seattle and this is an anomoly when averaged out we are still getting warmer as the years progress. I am still very upbeat about our long term prospects here in the PNW for grape growing, but sometimes you have to take the good with the bad…

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2011 might go down as the worst vintage (for Washington, Oregon and parts of California) in memory. (Until the next time we have a an even colder year!).

From my perspective here at HHV, things are just about as bad as I’ve ever seen in my 13 years of grape growing. Let’s start with the facts. Budbreak is just starting in my vineyard here in Woodinville and is just a few days behind most of the Yakima Valley and the Willamette Valley in Oregon. My average budbreak here at HHV has usually been the 2nd week of April, but has been as early as the last week of March, but never has it gone into May much less the 2nd week of May! This will have profound impact on the harvest this year. We we get off to such a late start, it is unlikely that we can have a hot and long summer that is hot enough to overcome this late start. 2009 was a late starting year, but by the time we got to this point in the year, it was getting really hot and lasted all summer long.

I really don’t know what will happen at this point. The long range prediction is for La Nina to fall apart here in the PNW this Spring and Summer. Temperatures in the Pacific ocean are already rising so that can only mean that we’ll warm up. In the Columbia Valley it may be a decent year, late but most things will ripen. Here in the west side and down in the Willamette it’s going to be a very tough year if we don’t get some heat and have a very dry Fall.

Ah the joys of farming!

Above  is an interesting graphic that I found at Cliff Mass’ blog. It shows temperatures across the country and shows how cold we’ve been here in the PNW. You see the big cold blue bulls eye on

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February 19th, 2011 9am-4pm

Following on a tradition I learned at other local vineyards, I’m putting on my 4th annual Puget Sound/Cool Climate Grape Growing class. This is a full day class for people interested in growing grapes in their backyard or people that want to take the next step and run a commercial vineyard in the Puget Sound region. This class is focused on growing grapes in the Puget Sound region, but these principles could be applied to a wide variety of locations from Oregon to British Columbia.

For those that are interested, here is a little about me: I’m going into my 13th year of growing grapes on a commercially. I first started at Maury Island Vineyards in 1998 where we had 3 acres of grapes in the ground. In 2003, we moved to Woodinville and started Hollywood Hill Vineyards where we farm 1.5 acres of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. We also test about 20 different varieties to see how they do in this climate. I have lectured at a variety of conferences, conventions and meetings including: Focus On Farming, Western Washington Horticultural Association and the Northwest Agribusiness Center. I am currently on staff at the Northwest Wine Academy at South Seattle Community College where I teach Viticulture classes.

In the class, we will be focusing on how to grow grapes here in Western Washington. The class will go from 9am to 4pm. We cover a lot of ground in the class. We’ll provide the food, coffee and wine and also give you a notebook of the slides from the class. At lunch we will taste some of my Puget Sound wines and other wines from the Puget Sound AVA. During the last hour of the class, we’ll get some hands on time pruning in our estate vineyard and you can take some cuttings home with you to start for yourself.

Topics covered by the class will be:
– History of Puget Sound wine growing
– Puget Sound Climate
– Site Selection
– Grape variety selection
– Site Prep
– Starting cuttings
– How to train vines
– Cost to establish a vineyard
– Pest control
– Harvest Parameters
– And Much More!

Class will be on Saturday February 19th, 2011, 9am-4pm. Cost $125 per person.

Coffee, morning snack, lunch and wine tasting provided.

Visit our website at http://www.hollywoodhillvineyards.com/events/events.htm or call (425-753-0093) to purchase a seat in the class. We have room for about 30 people and seats go fast.


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Regent in the press

I recently ran across an article from the renowned wine writer Jancis Robinson about pushing viticultural boundaries. You can view the article here: http://www.jancisrobinson.com/articles/a201011091.html

It’s a great article about how people around the world are planting grapes where they haven’t traditionally been grown before in places like Belgium, Poland and Norway. The one thing that caught my eye immediately was a very favorable mention of Regent wines from Holland! Jancis has always had an open mind about new and interesting grapes and I wish more wine writers around the world would be open to such innovations as Regent (hardly a new grape, being 43 years old). I’d love to get my hands on some of that Dutch Regent, the couple of examples I’ve had from Germany were disappointing, but I’m sure I’m not getting the best examples here in the USA.

I first became familiar with Regent in about 1999. Gary Moulton was running the grape studies at the WSU Mt. Vernon Research station and had just recently acquired from Canada and  had heard good things about this grape. We got a few vines and were able to plant 25 experimental vines. It did really well out on Maury Island and in the picture on the left you can see we had nice big full clusters of dark red fruit that never needed to be sprayed for mildews. It wasn’t until Ron Nelson planted an acre or so of this stuff that we were able to truly see the potential. Now I am a true believer in Regent as one of the top red grape selections for the Puget Sound region. Other things mentioned in the article that I found interesting was that some in Holland are also planting Pinot Gris and Pinot Blanc both of which have great potential on the west side of the Cascades here in Washington.

One thing open for debate is whether this is due to global warming or the increased interest in wine growing around the world. I think it might be a little bit of both. I do think mainly it is that people are exploring every nook and cranny around the world with an eye on wine grape growing and opening areas unthinkable in the past, but were probably decnet growing areas never explored.

We are bottling our 2009 Regent next week. I think many of you will be blown away by it… Look for it to go on sale in February some time…

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In my never ending series of grapes that are grown or can be grown in the Puget Sound AVA, we come to Muller-Thurgau (The U in Muller should have an umlaut, but here in the USA we are umlaut challenged!)

What is Muller-Thurgau? (MT for short) Müller-Thurgau is a variety of white grape which was created by Hermann Müller from the Swiss Canton of Thurgau in 1882. It gained popularity throughout the 20th century, especially in Germany where it’s popularity peaked around the 1970s. It can grow in a wider range of sites than Riesling and can produce large crops of grapes that make pleasant, if uninteresting wines. Originally, it was thought that Dr. Muller had combined Riesling and Sylvaner to come up with MT. Then in recent decades it was though that it was Riesling and Chasselas but DNA testing has conclusively proved that MT is the offspring of Riesling and a grape called Madeleine Royale. Madeleine Royale is a cross between Pinot Noir and Trollinger.

Sounds like a great match for the Puget Sound climate and it is for the most part. The main problem with Muller-Thurgau is that it ripens about the same time as many other white grapes, such as Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc, Chardonnay etc. The other problem is it’s name, it’s not very sexy and those people that know about the grape know that it’s mainly used to produce low quality wines. As Oz Clarke says in his Encyclopedia of Grapes book “but the problem is that to produce a top Muller-Thurgau you need a top Riesling site, which is a terrible waste of a top Riesling site”. I couldn’t agree more. There are so many other grapes to choose from that make much more interesting wines.

I grew MT at Maury Island Vineyards for six years and it is an joy to grow. It grows upright, gives a nice big crop and it seemed to be quite a bit more mildew resistant than the Pinot family. It usually ripened in the 2nd week of October, right along with Chardonnay.

Not to say that all MT is plonk. I had Gerard Bentryn once roll out a 12 year vertical for me of his MTs going back into the 1980s. Some of the older vintages were spectacular and you would have a hard time distinguishing them from Riesling. There in lies the problem, I have a hunch from some limited testing is that we could actually grow a decent Riesling here in the Puget Sound if you got the right clone and rootstock matched up to a nice warm site.

My suggestions with MT is that if you have an existing vineyard, no need to rip it out if it’s working for you. The only way I would plant more Muller-Thurgau is if you want to have a block of grapes that produces a high volume,  lower priced wine. It can crop at over 4 tons an acre and still get pretty ripe. (most Chardonnay and Pinot Gris will only ripen 2-3 tons an acre around here) Maybe it can be used in a blend with Madeleine Angevine and Siegerrebe. I have made excellent sparkling wine from MT.

All in all, a decent grape that makes OK wine, but competes in the vineyard with other higher value grapes.

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